Warsaw: In the face of a chorus of naysayers, Poland has defended its right to co-host the European Championship.
The country scrambled to build three stadiums, pave hundreds of kilometers (miles) of roads for fans to get around, and upgrade everything from hotels to train stations to airports.
Now the time has come to finally have some fun.
Poland hopes to put on a good show on Friday for the 55,000 fans expected to pack Warsaw's sparkling new National Stadium and the millions more that will be glued to TVs when Poland opens the tournament against Greece.
Both Group A teams are fully aware of how important a good start will be in their quest to advance to the knockout stage.
Poland lost its opening match at the three last major tournaments it played in — the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and Euro 2008 — and is anxious not to dig itself an early hole and kill the popular buzz surrounding the team.
"We are above all interested in a good result in our first match because it will put us on the right path and give us a lot of confidence," Poland midfielder Ludovic Obraniak said.
Poland is led by a talented trio that plays for German champion Borussia Dortmund — Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek.
The host's chances of advancing out of the group, which also includes Russia and the Czech Republic, largely depend on how far those three players will lead them.
Lewandowski, who scored 22 goals in 34 games for Dortmund this season and could emerge as one of the breakout stars of the tournament, will spearhead the Poland attack.
Behind him he'll have Blaszczykowski, Poland's captain, running the show in the midfield, while Piszczek will anchor the back and launch the occasional attack down the right flank.
The team doesn't have strength in depth, but Poland coach Franciszek Smuda has cobbled together a solid starting 11 that has put in quality performances in the past year, including draws with Germany, Mexico and Portugal.
They've also won three straight matches without conceding a goal, which has provided a shot of confidence.
"There are great expectations on us," Poland midfielder Maciej Rybus said. "Not long ago you could hear criticism about the national team, and now everything is positive and everybody's behind us."
For Greece, a perfect start would have historic resonance: Eight years ago, they beat host Portugal in the Euro 2004 opener and went on to win the tournament, defeating the Portuguese again in the final.
Only two players remain from that winning squad — captain Giorgos Karagounis and fellow midfielder Costas Katsouranis.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos was only 12 years old when Greece won the title in 2004.
"We've been studying Poland and we have respect for them, but there is nothing we fear," the Kaisersleutern midfielder said. "The pressure will be on Poland, who are playing in front of their fans."